DARRAGH LENIHAN, Paddy McNair, Tommy Smith and Anfernee Dijksteel at the back, Isaiah Jones, Hayden Hackney, Lewis O’Brien and Riley McGree in midfield, Marcus Forss up front.

You could have put together the core of a more-than-decent team from the players Middlesbrough had missing at the weekend; the problem is that Michael Carrick had to try to assemble a match-winning unit from the players that remained available to him.

That he was unable to do so was perhaps unsurprising given that Boro were taking on an Ipswich side who have taken the Championship by storm following their promotion from League One last season, and who might well end up playing in the Premier League next term, but the manner in which the Teessiders suffered their third defeat in the last four games was nevertheless concerning.


Devoid of pace and creativity in the final third, particularly in the wide positions, Boro never really looked like laying a glove on their opponents. Sam Greenwood was disappointing on the right, never really looking like hitting the levels he had been reaching prior to his absence at Leeds, while Morgan Rogers looked ill-suited to the role he was handed on the left-hand side.

Matt Crooks’ limitations as a ‘number ten’ have been sporadically apparent all season, and were evident again, while Emmanuel Latte Lath’s finishing was not a match for the quality of his movement across the Ipswich backline.

Perhaps inevitably, it all felt very patched-up and haphazard, with Carrick clearly feeling that he was unable to make any meaningful changes from the substitutes’ bench. That said, however, the non-appearance of Josh Coburn, who could at least have asked different questions of the Ipswich defence, was strange.

The key question is whether the dip in form that has seen Boro lose to Bristol City, Leeds and now Ipswich will be relatively easy to remedy once players start to return, or whether the lack of any real depth in the squad will be a major factor for the remainder of the season given that at least a couple of the absentees have already been ruled out for the duration of the campaign.

“We’ve got a number of games coming up, and the squad is the squad,” said Carrick, who watched Kieran McKenna get the better of him in the battle of the former Manchester United first-team coaches. “We would like everyone to choose from, but it is what it is. We’ve got to try and work hard to get whoever we can back and go with whatever we’ve got. We don’t use it as an excuse though.”

It is an excuse, although having beaten league leaders Leicester in their previous home game, the meek manner of Boro’s weekend defeat was nevertheless disappointing.

Their only effort of note came just before half-time, with Latte Lath cutting in from the left flank before drilling a shot wide of the right-hand post. They were already behind by that stage, with Ipswich having scored with their first effort on target when Conor Chaplin hammered home via a flick off the head of Matt Clarke after Jonny Howson failed to cut out a cross from Wes Burns.

Ipswich’s second goal came midway through the first half, with Lukas Engel playing substitute Omari Hutchinson onside as he broke onto a through ball from Chaplin before slotting home.

Boro’s opponents hardly created a plethora of chances, but they didn’t need to as they contained the home side’s attacking threat with a minimum of fuss.

“I’m still learning about the Championship, but Boro are probably a team that over-achieved a bit under Michael last year,” said McKenna. “The team that did so well had a large contribution from loan players, who went back to their parent clubs, and another player who had an amazing season, but was then sold.

“You have to rebuild it again, and that takes time in this division, especially when it’s pretty clear that they’ve tried to sign young players with potential and room to improve and develop. It takes time for all of that to fall into place.”